Team Sky raced hard but couldn't make a breakaway stick as Vattenfall Cyclassics came down to a sprint in Hamburg.
Mathew Hayman had tried his luck in a move earlier in the day and was the team's best-placed finisher in 17th place following a frantic finish.
On the run for home Ian Stannard again demonstrated his form by pushing along an escape group of four on the tough finishing circuit. Yet with so many top sprinters in attendance, it was no surprise to see things come back together in the final kilometres.
John Degenkolb took a big win on home soil to edge out compatriot Andre Greipel, the German (Argos-Shimano) timing his kick to perfection in the final metres.
Degenkolb still had enough in the tank to hold off the pre-race favourite after German champion Greipel was forced to start his sprint from a long way back. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) was dragged along in Greipel's slipstream to round out the podium.
The race produced a day-long battle between attackers and the sprint teams as numerous riders tried to build an advantage in a bid to foil a bunch kick.
After the race Sports Director Servais Knaven talked us through the gameplan and admitted the team did everything they could.
“The guys did a good race today," he said. "We tried to get in the breaks and we didn’t miss any big moves in the final.
“We didn’t have much in the sprint unfortunately. It’s notoriously difficult to sprint in Hamburg but we didn’t have a team here to do a lead-out. We played another tactic and looked to go in the breaks and bank on a smaller group at the finish.
“We knew it was hard to make that happen but we don’t have a really prolific sprinter in the squad.”
Knaven praised the form of Stannard who looked closest to making something happen in the closing stages.
“It looked good with Ian’s move but it was a shame the group didn’t stay together,” he added. “Terpstra attacked quite early and they might have had a better chance if they’d stayed together. But it was a really good try in the final and he showed he is going strong to be there on the climbs.
“Mat Hayman was riding really well as well and we saw Bernie was up at the front the whole time during the closing stages. He is back in business so it’s looking good for races to come.”
The race also saw a return to action for Jonathan Tiernan-Locke with the Brit hampered in the closing stages by an untimely puncture.
Making the breaks
On a hefty 247km parcours Garikoitz Bravo (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Jonas Aaen Jorgensen (Saxo-Tinkoff), Julian Kern (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Michael Schwarzmann (NetApp-Endura) made up the day's initial break and the quartet saw their advantage wind out to just over seven minutes.
The break swelled to 14 with Hayman among the bridging riders, yet despite a number of teams represented at the head of affairs, Garmin-Sharp and BMC Racing still combined to claw back the move heading into the final 50km.
More attacks followed with Manuele Boaro (Team Saxo-Tinkoff) and Rick Flens (Belkin) combining in a short-lived move.
Heading into the final 30km Team Sky hit the front with Bernhard Eisel and Hayman to the fore, looking to string things out and create a launchpad for the next move.
Cue Stannard, Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step), Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) and Wouter Mol (Vacansoleil-DCM) who broke free on the penultimate climb of the Walkensteiner Weg but there was no stopping the inevitable sprint.